Schilling throws one-hitter vs. A's
Red Sox ace comes within one out of his first no-hitter
OAKLAND -- Curt Schilling got two quick ground-ball outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and was one pitch away from throwing his first career no-hitter. He guessed wrong, however, and his 98th pitch of Thursday's game bounded untouched into right field.Schilling settled for his third career one-hitter in Boston's 1-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics after getting Mark Ellis to foul out two pitches later. "With two outs I was sure I had it," the 40-year-old Schilling said. "I shook off [Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek] and now I'll have to deal with a 'what-if' the rest of my life." Varitek wanted a slider but Schilling wanted a fastball away. A's left fielder Shannon Stewart was looking for exactly the pitch Schilling threw. Schilling faced two batters over the minimum, retiring 27 of the 29 batters he faced. The only other A's baserunner was Dan Johnson, who reached on Julio Lugo's error in the fifth inning. "I was looking away and shot it out there," Stewart said. "I looked down at the third-base coach and didn't get a take sign. I told myself I'd be swinging if the pitch was there." Varitek felt Stewart would be first-pitch swinging, and after calling for so many fastballs, wanted to mix in the slider to Stewart. "He was locating his fastball so it really wasn't an issue," Varitek said. "He threw a good quality pitch and Stewart did a good job of hitting. That's all it was." Pedro Martinez once lost a no-hitter late in a game in 2004 for the same reason -- shaking off Varitek. Schilling (6-2) took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres in 2001. He had never gotten into the ninth before Thursday. "I have been in 1-0 games before," Schilling said. "As soon as that ball gets through the infield, it's over for me. I go to work on the next batter. It was too close and we needed to win." Schilling's gem stopped the Red Sox's four-game slide and avoided a series sweep. It's the fifth time since he joined the Red Sox in 2004 that he's ended a losing streak of three or more games. "How about that? He almost turned back the clock the way he threw," Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills said. "He's our stopper. He's our No. 1 guy and we needed him to stop this little slide. He was outstanding." Mills, who earlier in the day watched as his son, Beau, was drafted in the first round (13th pick overall) by the Cleveland Indians, stood in for manager Terry Francona. Mills was able to be with his family when the selection was announced and Francona wanted to make sure the day was special for his old friend. Back in Boston, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein was keeping tabs on the game as he was concentrating on the First-Year Player Draft.
"It was an interesting day," said Epstein. "This is the one day where none of us really get to see the big-league game. We were all in the Draft room and we had the game on outside the room and kept kind of poking our head out and getting updates and trying not to jinx things. It was funny, because the ninth inning came around right when the 55th pick was about to be selected. We were trying to do two things at once.
"We actually closed the door to the Draft room with one out in the ninth inning and asked people not to make noise outside no matter what happened in the big-league game. We actually saw the base hit right before we selected. It was great to be able to see our club win and than have two guys we weren't sure would be at our pick get there at 55 and 62. All in all, it was a good day."
Schilling already owns a spot in Red Sox lore and now he's mentioned in the same breath as Billy Rohr and Rick Wise, the only other pitchers in Sox history to come within an out of a no-hitter. Rohr did it in his Major League debut on April 14, 1967, while Wise did it on July 2, 1975."I needed to pitch well and get consistent and we needed to win," Schilling said. "After the fourth or fifth inning, I'm aware of it. It's not something that dictates pitch selection, though. I just felt good late in the game. My velocity got better and my stuff got sharper as the game wore on. After the seventh inning, it was cool. With two outs in the ninth, I was sure." The Red Sox's ace was one out away from putting his name in the history books, but a single got past a diving Alex Cora. "I needed 10 more inches," Cora said. "When I saw the play on television, I looked so bad. We sure needed Curt to pitch like that. He was great." David Ortiz supplied all the offense, booming a home run over the center-field fence with two outs in the first inning. Ortiz also didn't realize Schilling was working on a no-hitter until the ninth inning. "I'm glad I didn't know because I get nervous," Ortiz said. "For some reason, I looked up at the board with one out in the ninth and saw all those zeroes. I kept looking until I saw the zero under the 'H.' I turned around and the guys were shushing me. Then I was getting nervous, and that's not a good feeling." Ortiz has hit safely in eight straight and had six hits in 14 at-bats against the A's, including two home runs and two doubles. "Twenty-five guys and 24 of them were watching the game," a smiling Cora chided. "He's the only one not watching." Mike Lowell and Coco Crisp each turned in a defensive play that helped Schilling keep his no-hitter intact. In the seventh, a ball took a bad hop on Lowell, but he was able to keep it in front and threw out Mark Ellis. In the sixth, Crisp ran down Mark Kotsay's ball just in front of the center-field fence, making an over-the-shoulder catch. Schilling threw a one-hitter in 1992 and another in 2002. It was also his 20th career shutout, and the first since May 14, 2003. This was the 104th start he's made since then. Oakland starter Joe Blanton (5-4) allowed only one run on four hits over 7 1/3 innings. Blanton retired 16 of 18 hitters between the first and seventh innings. For Schilling, it was just a matter of focus. "I stunk on Saturday," he said of his performance against the Yankees. "I was good today."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. Ian Browne contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.